Fifty Five and Five

Editing tips: cutting the waffle from your content

  • People waffle when they have no idea of what they want to convey
  • Serve the audience, not the author
  • Key tips for editing yourself 
Over the past 16 years content streamed to us through the web and social media has grown exponentially. As a result, our attention spans have seen a 30% decline – from an average of 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8.25 seconds in 2015. This seemingly accelerated ‘lack of concentration’ is cause for concern for marketers. It means arresting a reader’s attention as they scan your pages is an increasingly difficult task. The answer? Taking advantage of the editing tips in this post to cut the waffle from your web page content, and create really concise, engaging copy.

Content that is meaningful and relevant will increase the chances it is read in it’s entirety, but the harsh truth is that most visitors will be gone in less time than it takes to tie your shoelaces. In today’s post, we’ll explore some editing tips to help you create content your visitors want to keep reading.

Why do people waffle

Succinct, intelligent writing requires a deep understanding of what your reader wants to hear and a focus on conveying that message as clearly as possible. With the right balance, your audience can get straight to the benefits you offer. People waffle when creating B2B content for all manner of reasons:

  • Showing (or feigning) subject authority and experience
  • Glorifying products or software
  • They want to re-emphasize areas of interest
  • They have no clear idea of what they want to convey
  • They want to impress their readers

Our editing tips

There is, unfortunately, more to cutting your content down to size than removing adverbs and adjectives. A key thing to remember with any online content—webpages, blogs, even news articles—is that it’s there to serve the audience, not the author. For your webpage content to appeal to the reader, then, it needs to answer any (and all) fundamental questions they have. . Cornerstone content lets you do exactly that. Brian Clark of explains:

“…cornerstone pages are informative, instructive, and they help your prospects understand the foundational information needed to interact with your business.”

And the good news is, cornerstone pages have a number of additional benefits alongside acting as a guideline for writing concise content. Follow our editing tips to build a strong cornerstone page:

1. The power of headings and sub-headings

The first of our editing tips – headings are the most important few words on your entire webpage. They’re bigger in size and usually presented in more eye-catching fonts, and they’re located front and centre. Your headlines are the first (and arguably, most important) impression you make on your reader – so you need to make sure they count. As headlines should be no more than a few words, it’s vital you get straight to the point. Tell the reader exactly what they’re going to get from reading this page.

2. You need a good introduction

Your introduction needs to draw in your reader instantaneously with a combination of engaging and informative content. The second of our editing tips is to list the most important pieces of information about you that your reader should know, and combine them with techniques to pique their interest:

  • Ask them a question
  • Invoke their mind’s eye
  • Quote statistics, metrics and testimonials
  • Use metaphors and analogies

3. A strong body

This is where you can start to go into more detail, blending in educational content, links and imagery. More detail doesn’t necessarily mean more content however; all webpage content should be kept to short paragraphs of, ideally, no more than 100 words (aim for 50).

The further the reader makes their way down the page, the more educated in your offerings they become. So, body-text should cater more towards information than persuasion – save that for your headings and introduction when you’re trying to arrest their attention.

4. Use media

No list of editing tips would be complete without considering the best use of images. We react to visual stimuli better than words on a page. If you’re including metrics or statistics to accentuate your content, graphs and charts can do all the hard work for you – getting your message across far easier and more effectively than a couple of sentences could. We also retain visual information better than textual information. Images, videos and infographics will have a greater (and longer-lasting) impact on the reader, and are great for breaking up the actual text.

5. Harness good formatting

Research published in the Journal of Consumer Research confirms that we’re naturally drawn to bullet-point lists; audiences appreciate being able to digest smaller, compact pieces of information that’s formatted in a clear matter. Information that can be grouped logically (product features, services, solutions etc.) should be highlighted to the audience through lists.

A close shave for content

As our own writers know, a second pair of eyes is often best placed to carry out the sort of editing tips we have looked at. Failing that try to write the piece you are working on as one step, then approach editing as a different step (carried out on a different day).

When speaking with someone face-to-face, you’re able to rephrase your words if they’re met with a confused or hesitant expression. In writing, you don’t get the same luxury. Editing your work prior to publishing is therefore a crucial step – an opportunity to make your message concise and more persuasive. Hopefully our editing tips will help.

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Sam Gowing

Sam Gowing

Sam is a writer at Fifty Five and Five. What he doesn't know about SharePoint and Office 365 isn't worth writing about.

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